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Letter: OLG and problem gambling by the numbers

Thursday, June 05, 2014   by: Staff received the following letter to the editor from Rob Simpson, past CEO of the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, in response to a previous story entitled What OLG doesn't know about gamblers (Part 3 of 3).

OLG’s Paul Pellizzari recites from the corporation’s “issue management” playbook in the belief that if you repeat misinformation often enough the public will eventually accept it as true.  

Public understanding and discourse require that such tactics be countered.

Of primary concern is his manipulation of statistics.  

Here, the focus should be on the most problematic forms of gambling in Ontario: slots and table games.  

The very research Mr. Pellizzari cites by Dr. Robert Williams found that 5.5 percent of slots players are high-severity problem gamblers – this amounts to 99,000 people.  

They generate 31.2 percent of total slots revenue, or about $905 million a year.  

Further, 12.1 percent of table game players are high-severity problem gamblers – another 85,000 people.  

They generate an astounding 56.9 percent of table game revenues, or about $256 million.

Moreover, the full magnitude of harm is only appreciated if extended to immediate family members.  

On average, this research shows that each problem gambler has 2.8 family members, all likely to have been negatively affected.  

So, from these two forms of gambling alone, 184,000 people experience the most serious level of problem gambling, along with 515,000 family members.  

From this harm OLG nets about $1.2 billion annually.

Another serious concern arises from his spurious declaration that OLG’s employees cannot diagnose problem gambling – something never demanded of them.  

What is demanded is that they intervene when there is clear indication that a patron is likely to be experiencing harm from gambling.  

Just as bartenders are required to monitor consumption and look for signs of potential harm, gambling employees should monitor play and intervene when there are signs of potential harm.  

Instead, they stand by and watch as patrons gamble 24 hours at a stretch, bet $15,000 per one-minute hand at table games, play 26 days a month, and lose over $100,000 per day.  

Each of these indicators is rigorously monitored in loyalty program data bases (and used to provide ever more powerful inducements to gamble more).  

Finally, OLG has steadfastly refused to adopt any preventive measures that have research evidence backing their effectiveness.  

Another study by Dr. Williams and colleagues has clearly documented what works and what does not, but is never mentioned by Mr. Pellizzari.  

Instead OLG trumpets initiatives such as “responsible gambling centres” and “be responsible” signs for which there is no evidence whatsoever of effectiveness in preventing problem gambling.  

When subjected to weasel words and disinformation, my advice is “don’t buy what they’re selling”.

Rob Simpson

Guelph, Ont.


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
ThinkAgain 6/5/2014 12:31:02 PM Report

sounds like our government
nana55 6/5/2014 12:37:27 PM Report

The local SSM casino watches my 80 year old,widowed mother stay all night playing slots and constantly lure her back with VIP offers and mailings, free meals and event tickets. It is her money to throw away but I think the preying on lonely seniors is disgusting
Stressed 6/5/2014 12:51:13 PM Report

I completely agree with you Nana55....I take care, and provide a home, for my widowed mother who, at 78 has nothing to show for the amount of money she had in the past....within a week of receiving her Old Age Security cheque, she has no money left. I find myself throwing away all the "perks" that come in the mail to lure her back. It definitely affects family members. So very sad.
eadiecougs 6/5/2014 1:45:33 PM Report

there the devil lures u with getting rich fast.sure they give to charities but thats a smokescreen.I have known people who kill themselves because of high debt because of gambling just another way of government control.
osirisptah 6/5/2014 1:49:08 PM Report

It's your choice to walk through the doors to the casino.

It drives me nuts that people can't take responsibility for their own actions.

Stressed 6/5/2014 1:53:53 PM Report

I do agree osirisptah: however, from my experience, watching my mother, gambling is as serious as being addicted to drugs or alcohol..I've seen her try and stop...but she can't. It is an illness, and all the promotional, giveaway mail she get's is very tempting to someone who is already addicted.
Battler213 6/5/2014 2:06:27 PM Report

It's not an illness. Once you get into a mode where you feel you have nothing to lose, you will keep trying to get that big score. It's a mental state of mind. Gambling is not an illness. Drug and alcohol use is not an illness. It's a bad state of mind.
osirisptah 6/5/2014 2:07:10 PM Report

It is sorry to see, however blaming OLG and the Casino is like blaming McDonalds for making you fat because you ate there every day.
GoHoundsGo 6/5/2014 2:07:11 PM Report

Ahhh, finally I get to respond to this subject on the page it was actually posted on and not on the whine of the day page. Let me start by saying, gambling addiction like any other addiction is a personnal problem, effects families like almost every other addiction, but it is enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of people and the majority enjoy this form of entertainment without any addiction issues at all. By the same logic that the tripe in this letter and the 3 episode diatribe presented earlier this month, I guess we better ban alchohal sales and usage, because it creates alchohalics and people might drink and drive ect, or how about we ban cars cause a small minority are addicted to speed and drive reckleslly, and might kill someone.
Does OLG bare a responsibility to ensure people dont spend or gamble more then they can afford, my oppinion is absolutley not, you enter the casino as an adult and are expected to mach adult decisions. If family is so concerned about those deceisions than take yourself done to the casino talk to the appropriate people there and let them know what is going on and I know they will assist you in preventing that family member from making further bad CHOICES. The entire point of my rant is "ITS YOUR CHOICE PERIOD" . I go to the casino once in a blue moon, when I do I have a great time, spend my set limit, have a few pints and grab a cab. I excercise a little personnal responsibility and have a great time doing it and sometimes even win a few bucks, but stop with this blame the "casino", "Government", "society", ect ect ect and blame your damn self. The small minority should not ruin it for everyone else. And I'm sorry the Casinos and lottery have done way more good for this city, province and country then any harm they might have done. If you dont like it don't go, if you are addicted to it, seek help (there's tons of it out there, if you are a family member and a witnessing it, then get help or you are just as complicit as the gambler and the Casino/Lottery that you are demonizing.
GoHoundsGo 6/5/2014 2:10:04 PM Report

Sorry about the spelling errors, hit send accidently before spell checking. :)
fiddlestixs 6/5/2014 2:16:59 PM Report

McDonalds would make you fat and not to say very unhealthy if you ate there everyday.
Alphie 6/5/2014 2:40:08 PM Report

Sorry to say folks but your whole city is addicted to the gambling!!! What would the city do to make up for their share of the gambling proceeds. Huh...what about the jobs that's all you ever hear about in your city is oh my the OLG jobs. Maybe your city should cure it's addiction to OLG and start making some inroads on building a future on real jobs. God forbid what will happen if the Casino ever closes. Don't you people ever wonder why the building is still portable.
osirisptah 6/5/2014 3:05:15 PM Report

If OLG's product was Teddy Bears someone somewhere would find a reason to bitch because it is a crown corporation. Unfortunately that company pays pretty well for a lot of people in our community and as much as you may not like it they are a necessary evil.
tosimple 6/5/2014 4:17:21 PM Report

The casino does give good paying jobs to a good number of people. But the place is a dump- its a flippin tent!!!Like anything done in the city its half assed....
alsgirldeb 6/5/2014 5:05:27 PM Report

Yes there are many of us that enjoy gambling and I am extremely tired of listening to people complain about it. My husband and I enjoy this entertainment and it doesn't cost us any more than what the rest of you spend on your type of entertainment.
thumbs4208 6/5/2014 5:24:35 PM Report

Well it's not just gambling in the Casino
OrganicGuy 6/5/2014 7:44:21 PM Report

hey so 90% of the food you buy in the grocery stores is poison. Most of what we hear on TV is false. Most of our politicians tell lies to gain power. Come on people... everything has its downside... its really up to the individual to decide its fate!
rockbanger 6/5/2014 8:01:56 PM Report

Gambling was illegal a few decades ago and now you or most all agree it is a good thing. Good fun.

Soon all forms of drugs will be legal and taxable by your government.. Will you all be so gladly accepting of this?

Our society is more than just financially bankrupt.

Casinos are built on losers... The government does not care who loses or how much they lose.

One blogger talks of how the Casino management strategy is to send out brochures with freebies to all the willing addicted victims who have lost a certain amount. Pathetic.

Note that you can only have three drinks at a Casino bar as they watch out for drunks because drunk driving becomes a liability. Maybe feeding a gamblers addiction should be a liability as well?

IB-fine 6/5/2014 9:54:51 PM Report

To: GoHoundsGo, osirisptah and Battler213,
obviously you 3 no nothing about addictions before you keep saying it's a choice, it stops being a choice when people are playing with their rent/mortgage money and money they can't afford to lose.
Yes on the occasion when I've gone with friends to one of the casinos I have a set limit on how much I can afford to lose... generally $20. And once that's done I stop, and will watch the others until they are done or have my pop at the bar.
However when so many seniors are there day after day, throwing away all their money. Selling off treasures they have had for years, after they have gone through any savings they had then yes it's a problem.
Our family did intervene and get help for my mother and ourselves, enforced a power of attorney and had her self-ban from the casino. Where without cashing out her points card, they just took it, and took a picture and told her and us that they would see her upon entering and she would be escorted out.
Not year later, when we see a lot of money coming out of her bank account one Sat. did we call the casino to have her removed. They never stopped her! or had her removed!! or stopped sending her her free perks.
Now once you might think was a mistake or error on the casino's part.... how about 3 major times over 5 years! Again she was never escorted out unless it was by ME!
The casinos little signs and comments at the end of lottery commercials are all fine and well and good, but when are they going to enforce the self banning part of escorting the self identifying problem gamblers out of the building!?!??
RLT 6/5/2014 9:57:13 PM Report

OLG has a motto...Know Your Limit, Play Within It. However, OLG does not walk their own talk. Why are casinos open 24 hours a day? How normal is that? Pumping oxygen into venues? How normal is that? Placing ATM machines adjacent to gambling tables and machines? What is that message all about? And the best, the choice by OLG to use the word, "GAMING" Somehow, GAMING is less problematic than GAMBLING?? I don't think so. Gambling income may be funding our hospitals but gambling has a serious dark side. It can be an addiction, and it can and does cause immense physical, mental health, social and economic consequences that burden the very systems that the OLG coffers support.
Twist Of Fate 6/6/2014 10:13:06 AM Report

When are people going to start taking responsibility for their own actions? It seems that every situation in life that someone finds themselves in has to be blamed on something other than their own personal choices.
Here is the cold truth about casinos they are there to make money just like any other business and if you can't afford to spend your money there stay out. You are not going to get rich playing there it is no different than buying a lottery ticket the chance of a big win is not in your favor.
osirisptah 6/6/2014 3:16:59 PM Report

@IB-fine: All I see from your argument is that you are reinforcing my own. Your mother, friend, who ever still makes the choice to get out of bed and go to the casino. Addicted, infatuated, what ever you would like to call it, in the end is still a choice. I don't care that the OLG sends out notices or endorsements. They should, they are in the business of making money and are doing a damn good job of it. The only unfortunate thing about it is that I can't open my own to make some cash for myself.

It is unfortunate that family is wasting their money on things like this, that I can sympathize with. However, you could make this argument about almost everything in life; alcohol, cars, food, politics, you name it. There are pros and cons and it is you as an adult who has to choose what is right for you.

And to call it an addiction, I call BS. I've gambled before and know many others who have that don't end up there every day blowing their paychecks.

People are lazy and want the implausible. Bet when they win the don't complain and don't go donating the winnings to charity?? Because, hell that would be the moral and right thing to do? No?

Take responsibility for your own damn actions. Get help if you need it. Don't blame others for your own short comings, and quit looking for a crutch.

~Drops mic.
IB-fine 6/7/2014 11:37:03 AM Report

@osrisptah again you no NOTHING about addictions or addictive behaviour.
These people DO NOT CHOSE to gamble, drink or use drugs... they HAVE TO!

That's the difference between you and I who go in casually and play "within our limit" and leave. If we win, great, if we don't we had a nice night out.

The problem gambler wakes up with they HAVE TO GO GAMBLE. Whether it's at the casino or buying pull tickets, which I saw her do while I was bagging her groceries while she was banned from the casino. She must have dropped $20 in 5 minutes and maybe won $5. But the look on her face and in her eyes is astounding like a druggie with their fix in hand.

They actually think the longer they play the more they will win. Which is also why they have favourite machines, a lucky penny or rabbit's foot whatever, and play slots which is the biggest loser for anyone gambling as there is not choice in that game, unlike with cards.
When the gambler wins large, the win to them, proves their point of that they will win eventually and big.... and it's gone as fast as they got it, if not the same day.
When I asked her once why she went? and the answer was confounding. "Oh it's nice there and I talk to so many people and then I don't feel lonely in the daytime when you all are at work". Ever seen slot players play? The only person they talk to is the change person, waitress, and slot attendant. I asked her back if the machine talked to her as I saw no one else talking to her!

Same goes for Bingo (another bad addiction for many). I went once and was bored out of my mind and when I tried chatting with my friend, got shushed by people, even though there was a loud speaker with the numbers called which was certainly louder than me, and a light up board flashing the new number and showing all that have been called.

Again, there numbers of people who have been arrested for stealing their works' or charities' monies for them to gamble with. More that have lost all their savings, their home, car, job as they have to be at the casino, etc. The local addiction treatment centre can't keep up with the number of clients needing service, even though the casino funds 1 position.

Long way of saying, no NOT A CHOICE!
and again you know nothing about addictions. I suggest you read some gamblers anonymous literature and testimonials.
The pain for family and friends are you can tell when someone is on drugs or drinking too much, with gambling you can't (as they lie about everything to do with that and money) until the bottom falls out and they need help to pay the rent, go bankrupt, or get out of jail.
Twist Of Fate 6/7/2014 7:45:13 PM Report

At the end of the day if someone is stupid enough to throw away their life be it through drinking, drugs or gambling they get exactly what they deserve and the little media fed pitty party needs to stop. We all have to make choices in life and I am sure most everyone out there would love to be able to spend their money on something they want or enjoy rather than paying bills but it is called being a responsible ADULT.
All this addiction BS is nothing but a cop out so that they can blame someone other than themselves for their stupidity.
Grow up put the blame squarely on yourself where it belongs and quit whining when you make a stupid choice in life.
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